Saturday, April 24, 2010

a letter to Kirimi who went missing and suddenly life is not the same again

22nd April, Nairobi,
Jevanjee Gardens

Kirimi Kenneth Mbaya, a human rights activist who works with The Release Political Prisoners office in Nairobi has gone missing from 22rd April to date. It is said that he was arrested probably by what the witnesses describe as Kwekwe Squad. This name sends shivers down Kenyans’ spines. The main role of the Kwekwe Squad was to look out for young men believed to be members of Mungiki, and get rid of them. Hundreds of young men have died ruthlessly in Kenya for the last three years under this kind of policing for the fierce squad is part of the dreaded Kenya police force. The government says this squad was disbanded and replaced with another. Many citizens differ with that and say the squad is intact and continues to kill.

Dear Kirimi,

You might have seen the said white land rover coming your way near the General Service Unit or GSU College as we call it here in Nairobi and thoughts quickly flew through your mind. Perhaps since early that morning and before, you had misgivings. Insecurity is so common now in Kenya and young people have felt dispossesed for a long time. As they grabbed you, your mind could have dashed to your wife and children. As for the struggle and comrades, I know your heart and mind are never far from that.

You might not have realised that there was somebody watching or you might have, as they bundled you up into the back of the white van. But wherever you are, I wish you knew how much your comrades have done in search of you. Since you were reported missing, many of them have not slept. They have been to your home after searching all police stations and found your anxious wife with your children aged 9 and the other three months. She said that you never go overnight without telling her.

She knows what many Kenyans know when a young man goes missing like this and is not to be found even in police registers. At such times we fear the worst. But we have faith and hope Kirimi, that it was not for nothing that somebody managed to see what happened to you and reported it quickly. On the wings of the foot soldiers who have travelled accross Nairobi to the different police stations which almost come to over a dozen, are the people who are farway or only available on internet. Since the news came, they have been really active trying to spread their wings further and further, making a wide net so that you can land safely.

Frontline Defenders have sent an alert, and it has gone all over Kenya to police bosses and also all over the world. I made sure it went to the BBC because I have it from someone that when we were arrested and beaten in the past, the BBC report caused a lot of jitters in home offices and they did not want to hear that story again, and they acted fast. It is a shame we still can do under cover as a nation what we would not like others to see.

But right now Kirimi, it is your person that worries me. I wonder where you are as I look at your photos, which Fwamba N. C. Fwamba has circulated to us. I have this knot somewhere in my chest, not throat. It is a kind of oppressive force, when I think of you and the circumstances you are in. I think of so many young people who were disappeared in Kenya in the last three years. Records which the government has rejected puts them at 600. A shocking and worrying figure.

I still hear stories of villages in Central Province where young people, boys almost ceased to exist. It is an eerie feeling I get. I get it so deep down because my struggle as well as yours has always been so that people who are even younger than us, our children may inherit a better nation. At his point, I have to say sorry to your three month old child and to your nine year old. What they are registering right now from their mother’s anxiety and your absence is something that may scar them forever.

From that level, I think of the many people who are deeply angry and scarred in my country because human rights do not have the reverence they deserve. I think of the confusion created because of poor leadership. This confusion made many ordinary people feel that it is fine for a state to kill whoever they suspect is offending, and without due process. May this not be your fate Karimi because I know your work. May we find you alive and untortured for looking at you clear eyes, I cannot see how later I can face anybody with an explanation of whatever kind.

It is long since we spoke Kirimi. I remember your focus and your clear vision, a sense of direction which many of our leaders lack and I look at your youthfulness and ask myself what does anyone have to fear in a person like you? You speak out for justice. I deeply apologize to you for this state of affairs. Perhaps since am almost twice your age, if I had worked harder in the past we would not be where we are today. Perhaps if Moi had not detained artists without trial, caused them to go into exile, detained both Matiba and Rubia, when they spoke about multi-party politics, fear of one another would not be as high as it is. As a leader one's duty must be to create positive thoughts and to sow them in every individual that is open to receive and to woo the closed ones. I know this. I know that a leader can never be the first to suppress free thought and organising and am not condoning crime. I am saying there is a due process to be followed when people offend others in society.

I want to emphasise one thing. Matiba in his time used to attract the youth of Kenya like a magnet. He made us sense opportunity and we began to dance even before the opportunity came. I still remember Mwangi, in raggged clothes telling me with a bright soul and a smile what it felt like to visit Matiba and to be not only received but treated like the biggest dignitary on earth!
Now Mwangi crouches around Nairobi and like many, hardly wantst to spend too much time in rural Murang’a in case he too goes down or disappears without a trace.

If it is true as some say that Matiba was used by Moi and the intelligence to mix Kenyans up, I forgive Matiba, for they destroyed even his health and caused him bankrtuptcy, but to the other politicians who use young people, women and men old and young for a bait for their votes and to return to power shed blood, I join the old women at freedom corner who cursed Moi and now curse all in power with the ancestors on my side and say to them, "may you suddenly find that you are the pawn in the bait and may you be the ones that are trapped and our people set free!"

Karimi, to you I send hope. I want to send you hope as I remind you that you are not alone. I hope to see you soon, but you know I also had to leave for a while. This struggle has been so hard because it is not black and white, and am not only referring to color here, as was apartheid.

It has been so hard for many in Kenya and in the world to understand that Kenya’s soul is tattered. They were surprised when in 2007 Dec, people killed one another after an election gone awry because the presidential votes were not counted well and the results of the winner were not announced. I must say that I too had thought we were over with the worst when I saw the long queues of innocent faces like yours coming out to vote and be counted.

This taught me not never to underestimate Kenya. We aim high and we want to be a paragon nation in the world. A place of more justice and human rights. A place where women are not raped and men sodomised in villages and where children are secure. I know some will shake their heads but let them read or visit Githunguri villages and ask why everyone wants to be home well before dark. And I know it was like that sometime back in Ting'ang'a and it may never have stopped. Serious alcohol abuse and sodomy and rape that makes one recall Gomorrah.

We know we can and we shall never even stop to think we cannot. Why should we? Our ancestors collectively, be they Turkana, Malakote or Luo or any others say like Mekatilili of the Giriama believed in this and owned their dignity. We know we can for there was a time in the seventies when Kenya was referred to as the Switzerland of Africa. How can we stop and we have children?

It was through this event that we learned for sure that the kind of power our politicians crave for and exercise is raw and ugly. 1, 533 people died in a short time, many of them shot from the back. Thousands were placed in camps and some are still there. Some fled to Uganda and have remained there. Kenya, formerly the host of refugees from the neighbourhood has been hurtling down. You have been standing up for justice and now they have come for you like they have done for so many. We speak out even at the risk of it because we know what governments can become if people cow down and do not speak.

Karimi, I hope to wake up from this sad reverie and find that you have been found. In the meantime we shall keep your wife company with something for her to buy bread and milk for she fully depends on you.

When you are found, let me tell you this early, because if you are not, it will be hard for me to remember anything with the pain, when you are found. Please read or re-read parts of Mandela's Long road to freedom. No one may treat you as such, but you are the Mandelas of today and our prison is no longer an island. IT is life. Mandela makes allusion to life being prison often in this book, and what he went through with his family leaves one with so much pain. Read this book or keep in mind these thoughts before you have a long chat with your mother, your wife and family members. And remember to ask others to read these thoughts often and not to stop at the pain but to see the victory. Not to stop and wonder at Mandela but to start real organising of our lives so that we can be free in our land.



  1. Thank you for holding our history, Philo.......

  2. Thanks for exposing this,Its too sad that efforts of people who hold the interests of this country at heart are frustrated by the system.

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